Part 1: Let’s Talk Mindfulness
Why should I encourage mindfulness in the workplace? Good question. For starters, 63% of employers named mindfulness and mental health as a top focus (McKinsey & Company). In this 4-part series, I’ll explain why it is so important, provide some critical stats and deeper explanation of what mindfulness is (and isn’t), how it impacts your workplace, and simple techniques you and your employees can implement now.
Start with the Stats
According to Ginger (and Businesswire), a leading on-demand mental healthcare provider:
• 91% of remote employees reported moderate to extreme stress
• 88% of employees reported stress over the last 4-6 weeks
• 69% felt it was the most stressful time in their professional life
• 62% reported losing an hour a day of productivity
An hour a day? Not to mention the sick days and health insurance increases that can result over time. Then factor in the stress from COVID-19 and working from home. McKinsey & Company found that “Behavioral health is among the top workforce health concerns with 9 out of 10 employers surveyed noting that COVID-19 is affecting their workforce behavioral health and/or productivity.” What is all of this costing you/your company?
While stress affects us in different ways, some of the more common are headache, fatigue, insomnia, overeating, frequent colds, aches/pains, high blood pressure, and mental health issues – all of which can impact daily productivity and often lead to more severe physical issues. To the contrary, reducing stress can bring a greater sense of calm, clarity, and compassion into the workplace. This can build improved employee performance, stronger teams, and a healthier company culture. I’ll cover more of the benefits in part 2 of this series.
Mindfulness vs Meditation
Throughout my experience coaching and training executives in both leadership and team development, I’ve found that most leaders, understandably, tend to think mindfulness and meditation are the same thing. Let’s clarify the difference.
- Meditation is the process of training the mind to achieve a heightened state of awareness or focus. Sometimes this is referred to as a heightened level of consciousness.
- Mindfulness, however, is the simple quality of being more aware of your surroundings and what you are experiencing – basically, being in the moment.
Although this may sound simple it takes practice and dedication. Here are two effective ways to practice mindfulness. I encourage you to try one of these at least two times this week.
Two simple ways to practice mindfulness
1. Breathing Exercise.
Feel free to close your eyes if you’d like. As you are breathing concentrate on how your body feels. Pay attention to where you may feel stress or pain or heaviness in your body. Maybe in your shoulders, your stomach, your forehead. If you feel any pain or heaviness, imagine sending your breath to that spot, the healthy oxygen relieving any discomfort.
- Breathe in for a count of four
- Hold for a count of four
- Breathe out for a count of four
- Hold for a count of four
- Repeat this for about a minute or so
2. Mindfulness Walk.
Take a walk, preferably somewhere in nature, and pay attention to what you are seeing, hearing feeling- not to your thoughts. An example would be to say to yourself – look at those interesting leaves on the ground, what an unusual way the branch is leaning on that tree. Again, the point is to focus your mind on what is happening at present, and not on those pesky thoughts. However, make sure to go easy on yourself. Your mind will wander. When you realize it, gently bring your mind back to focusing on what’s around you again. Everything takes practice.
Did you know that mindfulness can create a change in brain structure?? In part 2 of this series, I’ll explore this phenomenon and explain how it can benefit your workplace.